Published On: Sun, Nov 6th, 2022

Embracing The Spectacle: How ‘Elvis’ and ‘Weird’ Breathe New Life into the Music Biopic

Left: Austin Butler as Elvis, Right: Daniel Radcliffe as Weird Al Yankovic

Ahhh the Music Biopic. The seemingly unstoppable Oscar-bait genre that rears its head year after year, no matter how stale and “paint by numbers” the plot is or how every song feels like celebrity karaoke. I thought perhaps when Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story released in 2007 that the genre might finally be broken for good. It skewered not just Walk The Line (the Johnny Cash biopic that swept the Oscars two years prior) but the genre as a whole. The parody was so sharp, so devastating, and so funny (not to mention music – which was always pitch perfect) that it seemed there was no way for the biopic to recover. 

And yet the biopic, as we saw with Bohemian Rhapsody’s huge success, persisted. The plot was shockingly bland (especially egregious for a story about Freddie Mercury!) and the sound mixing was terrible, but it was heaped with awards and a big fat box office. Unfortunate (to me) because it meant the much more interesting and exciting Elton John pic Rocketman was ignored the following year. For better or worse audiences want to see their favorite rock and roll stars and pop idols on the big screen, to feel the comfort of their favorite songs, to consume an easily digestible, dramatic version of their stars’ lives. And so what are we to do with this frustratingly unkillable genre? 

The Mary Sue

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